After Haynie's arrest, Boca voters to pick new mayor, councilmember in special election

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Anne Geggis

Published August 11, 2018


A special election for mayor and a council seat in Boca Raton after Mayor Susan Haynie’s arrest on corruption charges and suspension from office could change the direction of development in the city.

All of the city’s registered voters are eligible to choose the next mayor and Seat A council representative on Aug. 28.

For mayor, they will choose from Scott Singer, 41, an attorney who slid into the mayor’s chair from his council seat because of his position as deputy mayor; Alfred “Al” Zucaro, 69, an attorney associated with the gadfly website “BocaWatch” who lost a mayoral contest with Haynie last year; and Bernard Korn, a real estate agent who has never run for office.

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Running to succeed Singer in Seat A are Kathryn “Kathy” Cottrell, 60, a semi-retired consultant; Tamara McKee, 48, an actress and producer; and Andy Thomson, 35, an attorney who lost his bid for a council seat last year.

Boca Raton voters will choose a new mayor and council member in a special election on Aug. 28.


Haynie has not officially resigned as mayor. Gov. Rick Scott suspended her from office a few days after her arrest on three counts of official misconduct, and single counts of perjury in an official proceeding, misuse of public office, corrupt misuse of public office and failure to disclose a voting conflict. The winner in the mayoral contest would fill out the remainder of Haynie’s term — until 2020 — or Haynie could be reinstated to her term if she were exonerated of the charges. The Seat A term also goes until 2020.

Singer, who has served on the council since 2014, was among the first to call for Haynie’s resignation.

“Now more than ever, we need experience and continuity in our elected leadership and a leader who considers the views of all residents and charts a vision for success,” he said.

But Zucaro, who lost to Haynie last year, says Singer’s votes match nearly all of Haynie’s — and he represents the agenda that has resulted in the large-scale development that has sprouted in Boca’s downtown in recent years.

“He is doing what the developers want,” Zucaro said, pointing to Singer’s list of contributors that includes high-profile development attorneys and companies that have advocated for high-density downtown projects. “We have … thousands of units because of his votes.”

Singer, however, says he’s the resident-friendly candidate, pointing to his recent vote against the massive Midtown development that would put shops, restaurants and up to 2,500 apartments or condos off Military Trail near the Town Center mall.

“There are too many unanswered questions about traffic, transportation and getting people across Military Trail,” Singer said.

Zucaro has advocated for settling with the developers now suing over the City Council’s “no” on Midtown.

“There’s way too much at risk for the city of Boca Raton,” Zucaro said. He contends limiting the development to 600 units would be reasonable and prevent lawyers’ fees from piling up.

Singer said contributions to his campaign show his supporters are drawn from a wide swath of people with interests in the city, and it’s Zucaro’s supporters that residents should wonder about.

Singer has filed two complaints with the Florida Election Commission, one against Zucaro personally and the other against the nonprofit BocaWatch, for which Zucaro is the sole registered agent and director, according to state records. Singer alleges BocaWatch is operating as an unregistered political committee in support of Zucaro, with unknown supporters.

“Zucaro has been using BocaWatch as an arm of his campaign, so it’s acting as an unregistered political committee,” Singer said, pointing to website ads that haven’t shown up as in-kind donations. “BocaWatch is a way to hide the sources of campaign funding and our residents have a right to know what special interests are bankrolling his political campaign.”

Zucaro said BocaWatch is financed by advertisements for his law office paid through his office. The complaint arrived few days ago, Zucaro said, and he’s allowed a chance to respond to Singer’s allegations before it becomes an official investigation.

“I don’t want to see this city go down in a black hole,” he said. “Traffic is miserable and have you read [about] the suit with the Crocker Partners, [developers of Midtown]? The city may find itself going into bankruptcy. It’s a disaster.”

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Neither candidate feels the need to address Korn, a real estate agent who qualified for the mayor’s race. Voting records show he only registered to vote in Boca Raton in April, and he has never voted in a Palm Beach County election. Rules require office-holders to live in the city, and Korn’s homesteaded house is outside the city limits, in unincorporated Palm Beach County. But he said that’s where his soon-to-be-ex-wife lives. He says reports about his questionable residency in Boca Raton are “fake news.”

“Boca Raton is where I live and where I’m going to die,” he said. “I bought five plots at Boca Memorial Gardens.”

Korn, who has acknowledged filing to be a candidate for U.S. president, said he decided to run for mayor reluctantly. He was not available for follow-up questions from the Sun Sentinel.

Seat A

Thomson, an attorney, is trying for the second time to win a seat on the council after losing to Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke last year.

“With my legal and traffic planning background, I have the professional experience to help solve the city’s issues,” Thomson said. “… I see disputes as opportunities to bring people closer and work collaboratively toward a solution.”

One concrete idea he has for addressing downtown traffic and inviting more strolling: Turn Dixie Highway into a downtown bypass and slow down traffic on Federal Highway.

With endorsements from the city’s chamber of commerce and the public safety unions, along with donations from developers such as Derek Vander Ploeg and Jamie Danburg, he’s the clear favorite of the city’s establishment. But he says he’s garnered support from all parts of the city.

Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke has endorsed Cottrell. If elected, Cottrell, O’Rourke and Councilwoman Monica Mayotte, who is also aligned with O’Rourke, could form a three-vote council majority that has not received the blessing of the development community — a first in many years.

Cottrell said her campaign is focused on quality of life issues. She got involved in working for the 2016 referendum that turned the site of the former Wildflower night club into a public park.

A city bike program, Uber/Lyft pick-up areas and better timing on traffic lights are some of the ways she sees to address the city’s traffic woes.

“I believe my actions over the past several years in attending most all council, CRA [Community Redevelopment Agency] and workshop meetings, as well as the quality of my volunteer work show that I am more vested and committed to serving this city and to understanding the issues important to the residents,” she said.

Cottrell, the only Boca native in the race, graduated from Boca Raton High School but has voted in only one city election.

McKee says she is the only candidate with actual experience doing what the City Council does — acting in a quasi-judicial role, crafting rules and overseeing discipline under the state’s open-government laws. She was a two-time Gov. Rick Scott appointee to the Florida Real Estate Appraisers Board.

She pledged to improve traffic in the first 60 days if she’s elected. One way to do that is improve traffic light synchronicity, she said. “When I’m elected, I will hit the ground running, represent all of Boca’s residents, and restore trust and improve traffic in my first 60 days,” she said.

She is also one of 12 founding members of the current Boca Raton High School Parent-Teacher Association. She wants to appoint a City Council member to act as liaison to the School Board to properly address Boca’s school overcrowding situation. She would also ask for equalizing fire fees between residential homes and businesses.